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Mazda MX-5 – History

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mazda MX-5 mk I and II

First Generation Mazda MX-5

During the 1980s the clever people at Mazda realised that there was a gap in the market for a small, sporty 2-seater roadster, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the demise of the Triumph Spitfire and MGB Roadster. The head of development at Mazda set a challenge to the design teams in California and Tokyo to come up with a new design. The Californian team opted for a front engine, rear wheel drive design, while the Tokyo team favoured a front engine, front wheel drive layout or a mid engine, rear wheel drive layout. The Californian team won out with a design taking styling cues from classic British sports cars such as the Lotus Elan. The MX 5 (Mazda Experiment project number 5) made it’s debut at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. The car was launched around the world by 1990.

In the United States, the car was known as the MX-5 Miata, while in Japan as the Eunos Roadster. Available with either 1.6 litre of 1.8 litre engines, the MX 5 was available with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic. The car featured pop-up headlights, all-round independent suspension and a near 50/50 front and rear weight distribution, giving it excellent handling. The car became an immediate hit around the world. The car was quick, fun and very reliable.

Second Generation Mazda MX-5

In 1999 the second generation MX 5 was introduced, featuring a restyled more curvy body and fixed headlight as the pop up units no longer met pedestrian safety regulations. The car was slightly larger than its predecessor and slightly more aerodynamic. The interior was redesigned with a more modern dash, as well as several minor mechanical tweaks. In 2001 the car was given a facelift with redesigned  headlights, grill and tail lights.

mazda mx 5 mkIII

Third Generation Mazda MX-5

The third generation was introduced in 2006 with a completely new design sharing no components with the previous models. 1.8 litre and 2.0 litre engines were offered mated to a 5-speed manual, 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. Driver aids such as traction control and stability control were added. In late 2006 a 3-piece retractable hard top was offered, which could be put down in 12 seconds without any loss of boot space. In 2008 a facelift version was introduced with restyled headlights and grill and a slightly restyled rear bumper.

mazda mx5 mk3

The Mazda MX 5 is the world’s best selling sports car and is widely regarded as the benchmark to other cars to achieve.